What was an otherwise mundane afternoon in New York City suddenly became one in which I was trapped in a terrible moment with another innocent human.
A short man in jeans and a t-shirt was standing 15 feet in front of me, also waiting for the subway.
In the damp, humid, uncomfortable air, I watched this man reach behind and do one of the worst things to get caught doing in public.
He picked his butt. Not just a little scratch but a full on Pick & Scratch ™ that lasted about 15 seconds.
And then, he turned around, as we all do when we pick our butts in public, to make sure nobody was looking.
There I was… staring right at him.
He asked awkwardly, “How’s it goin’.”
I looked away.
“Hey…I know you…aren’t you Bryan Stryker…or wait…Rod Kest…no you’re Fred Devito!” he said. “I took your yoga class a few weeks ago at Exhale.”
I placed my hands at my heart as if to say Namaste and acknowledge him but absolutely would not say anything.
He came over and held out his hand for me to shake…the one he just used to pick his butt.
A few weeks ago, I had the great honor of hearing Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker give a speech to the 200+ yogis who came together for a gathering called Global Mala. Not only did he speak, he led us in the first of 108 om’s. What a badass!
He is one of the nation’s most progressive, impactful mayors and surely a future Presidential candidate if he chooses to run.
Some of Mayor Booker’s accomplishments include reducing violent crime (Newark currently leads the nation in violent crime reduction), doubling the amount of affordable housing, and raising the salaries of city workers.
Mayor Booker told a fascinating story about an experience he had shortly after graduating Yale Law School several years ago.
He came to Newark, a bit high on himself and his academic accomplishments, looking to make a difference.
Booker went to a beaten down part of the city to meet a community leader. He recalled walking up several flights of stairs in a old building, knocking on her door, and as it opened, staring her in the eyes, “I’m here to help.”
“Is that right?” she asked. “Then come with me.”
She led him into a particularly troubled neighborhood in Newark, “What do you see Mister Booker?”
And Cory Booker looked around and described what he saw…beaten down cars with flat tires, an abandoned building, impoverished residents rolling shopping carts with their belongings.
And the lady said, “You CANNOT help me!”
Booker caught up with her as she explained…what we see on the outside is only a reflection of what we feel on the inside.
I stood there, facing the butt-scratcher.
The fearful person inside of me saw the butt-scratcher’s germy hand…just as the fearful person inside of me sees New York City with trash on the street, crackheads sleeping in the gutter, and people grimacing at the Boston Red Sox debacle.
The loving person inside of me saw the butt scratcher’s friendly hand… just as the loving person inside of me sees New York City’s ethnic diversity, cultural vibrancy, and people cheering the Boston Red Sox debacle.
I shook his hand warmly.
As Anais Nin wrote, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”
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